Two of California's best community college women's volleyball programs squared off at Bakersfield College Wednesday night, and they didn't disappoint the crowd that packed the Gil Bishop Sports Center.
BC's Renegades, ranked No. 3 in the state, were competitive, but Los Angeles Pierce again showed why it was top-ranked in the state, winning the Western State Conference opener, 25-23, 25-22, 25-17.
Although BC kept the pressure on with hard-fought points and a never-say-die attitude, the Brahmas earned their third win of the season over the Renegades in three tries.
Pierce (14-0) is the only team to beat BC (9-3) this season.
Pierce ran most of its offense through last year's WSC Tournament MVP Danetta Boykin.
"She's an All-American for a reason. She does a great job," BC coach Carl Ferreira said. "We designed our schemes to try to slow her down. She hits with a very high contact point. We have to serve well to make them a one-option team; then we can put a great, solid block on her.
"When they get in rhythm and their setter has options and can move the ball around, they're tougher to handle," he added. "When we have our highest amount of success against Boykin is when we serve well."
The teams' previous meeting, two weekends ago in Pierce's tournament, was decided when the Brahmas went on a six-point run to win the decisive Game 4.
In addition to being ranked among the top three in the state, these are the only two teams to win WSC state titles over the last 11 years: The Brahmas have won 10 of those, with the Renegades earning the crown in 2009.
"They play like they're defending something," Ferreira said. "They don't want to be the team that gives up the run they're on. They play with a tremendous amount of pride. They put a lot of pressure on you and I think their serving is what did us in tonight."
As for familiarity, Ferreira welcomes it, particularly for future matches.
"What we don't have at this level is ... mandatory tape exchange. So the more tape you have, the more you study somebody, the more familiar you are with what works against them," the coach said. "Each time we've gone against them, the match has been better. It's a higher caliber volleyball match.
"Yes, they won," Ferreira added, "but this is a higher caliber than the previous two and that's all because of the familiarity.
"I love the atmosphere."